Le Cinque Terre
Quite incredibly, the project worked out in the end. The hills overlooking the sea were terraced by sheer force and made fertile for cultivation, thus allowing the villages to sustain themselves. The roads, however, were simply impossible to build on such a rough terrain. A massive effort to drill through the mountains and build a train railway was only completed in late Nineteenth century, but apart from this, a number of small coastal villages remained reachable by boat only. This insulation had some positive effects however. No road access also meant that no new houses were built, and no factories – hence nature remained preserved and pristine. A small population couldn’t damage the sea bottom and its life, and no easy trade routes translated into old fashioned shops maintaining their quaint business well into late Twentieth century. In other words, the area is a sort of a unique time capsule.
The Cinque terre are five such villages which turned their peculiarity into a tourist attraction. Very briefly, they are:
Monterosso – The largest and northernmost village;
Vernazza – Probably the most beautiful of the five overall;
Corniglia – Actually a hillside village separated by the sea by a very long stairway, and thus even more unique;
Manarola – The best example of extreme use of the little available land, with its houses apparently piled one on top of the others;
Riomaggiore – The best preserved one, even forbidding the use of rooftop antennas in order not to modernize its look;
The best way to visit the Cinque terre is by ferry during the summer and by train throughout the year. They are just a few minutes apart from each other, and where cars can arrive they cannot stop anyway as the very few parkings available are reserved for the villagers. Another great way to see the villages is by trekking on the very spectacular Via dell’amore (‘lovers’ route’), a long and narrow trail overhanging the sea. Beside the views, the Cinque terre are known for their unique food, of course grown locally in very particular conditions: the olives and their oil, salted anchovies, focaccia bread and the exclusive Sciachetrà wine.